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Local Armed Forces and Police Dogs Train in Detection of Explosives

August 31, 2004

A team of highly specialized instructors from the U.S. military is currently in Uruguay training military and police dogs for use in detection of explosives, a new area of expertise for local law enforcement and armed forces dog handlers.

A total of 18 dogs from the Uruguayan Army, Navy, Air Force and Police are part of this training, which is specifically targeted at finding explosives in a variety of different scenarios. They are being trained in realistic settings such as barracks, on a ship passenger terminal, warehouses, vehicles, and aircraft. The project is part of an international effort to thwart the threat of terrorism.

Training for explosives is identical to training for drug detection, the only difference is the scent they are taught to recognize. Initially it involves considerable amount of rapport building: just the handler showing his dog plenty of love and getting the trust built up, advancing gradually into teaching the dog how to play with the toy for his reward. Dogs have a mental age equivalent to a 3 or 4 year old child, therefore a loud and childish tone of voice is used to praise his efforts. This is followed by repetition training. At first, the dogs are taught to detect about a half a dozen types of explosives. The usual response is to sit in front of the detected target and wait for the reward. Once this routine is achieved, the dog can be trained to recognize additional scents in order to detect all types of explosives, even the minutest quantity.

The Uruguayan dogs have been responding extremely well to the training. They include German shepherds, a pit bull, a Spanish setter, and a mixed breed. Just about any breed of dog can be trained as long as they have the natural behaviors that are required for the job.

The U.S. instructors have been very impressed with the quality of dogs in training so far. In fact, they are considering Uruguay as a possible procurement source to purchase dogs for our training within the Department of Defense.

U.S. Ambassador Martin J. Silverstein reviewing team of dog handlers and trainers. [U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi]
Ambassador Silverstein reviewing team of
handlers and trainers
Police dog searching for concealed explosives during training exercise. [U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi]
Police dog searching for concealed explosives

Military dog pointing a target during training exercise. [U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi]
Dog pointing a target to his handler
Military dog awaiting for his reward after locating a target during training exercise. [U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi]
After locating the target, the dog awaits his reward


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